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JOURNALIST'S WIDOW SLAIN; MUSHARRAF'S CRACKDOWN ON MEDIA CONTINUES

The wife of a journalist killed last year who had herself become an advocate for journalists' safety was murdered in a targeted bomb attack last week in Pakistan, report the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF).

Mahrun Nisa was killed on 17 November when a bomb detonated outside her bedroom window in Mir Ali, a militant stronghold in the border region of North Waziristan. Her five children, who were sleeping in an adjoining bedroom, were not injured in the blast.

Nisa's husband, Hayatullah Khan, disappeared in December 2005 just days after he photographed shrapnel from a U.S. missile found at the scene where al-Qaeda leader Hamza Rabia was killed. His widely published photo contradicted a claim by the Pakistan government that Rabia died in an accidental explosion. Khan's body was found seven months later riddled with bullets. He received the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)'s International Press Freedom Award in 2006.

Since losing both her husband and one son to vicious attacks, Nisa had become an advocate for journalists' safety and media freedom in Pakistan.

Journalists' safety has been rapidly deteriorating in Pakistan with recent events. Despite meeting with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, President Pervez Musharraf has continued his assault on the media and refused to end the state of emergency.

According to RSF, at least 160 journalists were arrested today (20 November) as they protested against the media curbs that prohibit the media from broadcasting or publishing critical news. The arrests came shortly after the government said it released more than 3,000 people jailed under emergency rule.

In Karachi, where the vast majority of arrests were made, police baton-charged demonstrators after they tried to stage a protest march. At least five reporters were hurt. The journalists were planning to hold a demonstration outside the Karachi offices of ARY TV, one of only two networks that have not returned to cable in Pakistan since all private broadcasters were shut down on 3 November when Musharraf declared the state of emergency.

Over the weekend in an unprecedented move, Musharraf pressured the government of United Arab Emirates to suspend ARY Digital and GEO TV, Pakistan's leading private television stations with offices in Dubai, report the Pakistan Press Foundation, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Human Rights Watch and RSF.

According to CPJ, they were the only stations who refused to sign a government-mandated "code of conduct". By broadcasting from Dubai, the news channels had remained accessible in Pakistan via Internet and satellite.

Visit these links

on Nisa:
- IFJ: http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?Index=5517&Language=EN
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=24417
on the media restrictions:
- PPF: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/87779/
- CPJ: http://www.cpj.org/news/2007/asia/pak16nov07na.html
- Human Rights Watch: http://tinyurl.com/2kw3pj
- IFJ: http://www.ifj.org/
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=24415
- Last week's "IFEX Communiqué": http://tinyurl.com/2q2ono
on the Karachi protests:
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=24466
- BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7103538.stm
(20 November 2007)

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